This time of year there’s a superabundance of people writing and sharing listicles about the things you need to do and learn in 2016 to have a more meaningful career and life. I even came across this one, 16 Lists to Make to Jumpstart Your Career in 2016—a list of lists, for real inc.com?!
It is so easy to get overwhelmed and never check a single box on your list…or even make a list for that matter.
Nevertheless, I’d like to share my Best Ways to Make an Impact in 2016 listicle with you:
That's it. Just one thing I'm changing in 2016. I've actually already started saying "No" and it feels great. Sure, I'm a people pleaser and I want to say "Yes" to everything, but it's more important that I limit my commitments so I can make an impact in the areas I have chosen to spend my time: 4-H STEM education, youth leadership, economic development, eXtension EdTech Learning Network and climate science education project.
I was recently asked by a national association in my field to chair their marketing committee. I wanted to do it, but I said "No" because it just wasn't a Napoleon Dynamite, "Heck Yes!"
Do you remember the scene in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi where Darth Vader shows up to put some pressure on one of his Death Star Commanders? No one got choked out, but this poor guy was sure stressed. Here's the dialogue:
Commander: Lord Vader, this is an unexpected pleasure, we were not aware of your…
Darth Vader: SPARE ME YOUR PLEASANTRIES COMMANDER, I AM HEAR TO PUT YOU BACK ON SCHEDULE.
Commander: The men are working as fast as they can...I assure you this station will be on time…
Darth Vader: THE EMPEROR DOES NOT SHARE YOUR OPTIMISTIC APPRAISAL OF THE SITUATION.
Commander: But the Emperor asks the impossible, we need more men…
Darth Vader: PERHAPS YOU CAN TELL THE EMPEROR WHEN HE ARRIVES.
Commander: The Emperor is coming here???
Darth Vader: YES, AND HE IS MOST DISPLEASED WITH YOUR APPARENT LACK OF PROGRESS.
Commander: Then we shall double our efforts…
Darth Vader: I HOPE SO COMMANDER FOR YOUR SAKE, THE EMPEROR IS NOT AS FORGIVING AS I AM.
You do not have to rebuild the Death Star in 2016.
You have a choice. You do not have to feel (spread too thin) like this Death Star Commander and worry about a force choke or lightning.
Most people, teams and organizations complain of not having enough resources (e.g. time, money, people) to get the job done. If we just had more x, then everything would be easier and we could get things done. More resources don't always solve the problem, but new thinking often does.
What happens if instead of seeking more resources, you find the discipline to cover less area?
I’ve learned that spreading myself too thin is a form of hiding. It helps me be/look busy, but makes it less likely I will make an impact.
I’ve discovered that making an impact with what I have is actually the best way to get a chance to make an even bigger impact (with more resources) next time.
I often need to remind myself of this sound advice: Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.
Next year, I will be saying "No" more often, but continuing to follow the plan I live by (thanks Seth):
When in doubt, see #1.
Paul Hill, Ph.D.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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